Taking “Stock” of your “Brace.”

Pistol Brace vs. Buttstock: Understanding the Legal Ramifications for AR Pistols

The AR pistol is popular among gun enthusiasts due to its compact size and versatility. However, one aspect that often generates confusion and debate is whether to use a pistol brace or a buttstock. This article aims to shed light on the legal ramifications of these choices and provide a clearer understanding of AR pistol regulations.

The Definition of an AR Pistol:

Defining what constitutes an AR pistol is essential to understand the legal considerations. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), an AR pistol is a firearm that meets the following criteria: it has a barrel length of less than 16 inches, an overall length of less than 26 inches, is designed to be fired with one hand, and does not have a shoulder stock attached. 

Pistol Brace:

A pistol brace is an accessory that attaches to the buffer tube of an AR pistol, providing support and stability when shooting one-handed. Originally designed to assist disabled shooters, pistol braces have gained popularity among AR pistol owners as a means to enhance control and accuracy. The ATF has previously stated that using a pistol brace, when used as intended, does not alter the firearm’s classification as a pistol.

However, it’s crucial to note that the ATF’s position on pistol braces has evolved. In 2020, the ATF released an open letter stating that shouldering a pistol brace could transform the firearm into a short-barreled rifle (SBR), subject to the National Firearms Act (NFA) requirements. This caused significant confusion and concern among gun owners. Nonetheless, the ATF later withdrew the letter and declared that shouldering a pistol brace does not, in and of itself, alter the classification of the firearm.


On the other hand, a buttstock is a shoulder-mounted support that provides stability and control when firing a rifle. Attaching a buttstock to an AR pistol fundamentally changes its classification. With a buttstock installed, the firearm is considered an SBR, subject to NFA regulations, including a $200 tax stamp, registration, and other legal requirements. Possession and transfer of an SBR without proper compliance with the NFA are federal offenses.

Legal Ramifications:

Using a pistol brace on an AR pistol allows the firearm to retain its classification as a pistol, which means it can be legally purchased, possessed, and transferred without NFA restrictions. However, it’s essential to understand that the user’s intent plays a significant role in determining legality. If the pistol brace is used as a shoulder stock or modified to facilitate shoulder firing, the ATF may consider it a violation of the law.

SO WHAT… does this mean for you?

When deciding between a pistol brace and a buttstock for an AR pistol, it is crucial to be aware of the legal ramifications associated with each choice. While using a pistol brace allows for increased stability and control without the burdensome requirements of the NFA, it’s important to use it as intended and avoid shouldering it. Remember that regulations and interpretations may change over time, so staying updated on ATF rulings and consulting legal professionals are prudent steps to ensure compliance with the law. Ultimately, responsible gun ownership involves understanding and adhering to the legal framework surrounding firearms to avoid unintended legal consequences.

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